The Interview: Mathew March-Smith, Pong Cheese

Meet Mathew, co-founder of Pong: food obsessive, internet whiz and self-proclaimed country boy

MAKING IT WORK
We started Pong in the middle of a recession, and despite selling what is essentially a luxury product it took off really well – I believe that was down to a combination of luck and timing. It was probably quite scary at the time, but I look back on it as being fun and exciting. We wanted to be a purely internet retailer, which made it even more essential to have strong branding as we’d only have a limited timescale in which to grab someone’s attention and draw them in.

A lot of the cheese-selling websites you see now were around when we set up Pong. A lot of delis and cheesemongers had realised that if they opened a website they could run it as a separate store and introduce it to a national audience, but we were lucky that I had experience in promoting food nationally and my business partner Ben had an extensive knowledge of the cheese industry and the way that people act on their passion for speciality cheese. It was a match made in heaven.

We’ve grown so much every year and that growth is exaggerated every Christmas, so it’s a very challenging time for us. One of our greatest triumphs happened last Christmas, because despite being so busy and having new people on the team, thanks to being prepared and perfecting our systems everything went smoothly and there were no hiccups. It was lucky in some ways, but it also demonstrated that we’d learned from our experiences and become a stronger business because of them. Fingers crossed this continues!

INSPIRATION
I’ve always related to people who do really amazing, brave things – whether that be climbing a mountain or saving lives – as they’ve had to be so singleminded and sacrifice things to achieve their objective. I’m suppose I’m inspired these people because I know I’m nothing like that and don’t think I ever will be!

WHAT'S NEXT…
We’ve just launched a new website, and a big part of that is what we’ve called The Cheese Club. We wanted to develop the longevity of the relationship with our customers, so it’s a subscription service which can be personalised to what the customer wants in terms of products and frequency. We’re also bringing on more new and rare cheeses, which has gone brilliantly well so far. It’s exciting for our customers but it’s hugely exciting for us too as we get to explore the market. We’ve also been thinking about creating a bricks and mortar shop in order to be nearer to our customers and offer something different, but this won’t be happening any time soon.

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